Now in its sixth year, the festival continues to grow, with activities spanning 34 cities and towns in Wisconsin.
Laura Heisler, director of the festival and director of programming for the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation and the Morgridge Institute for Research, says there’s something for everyone at the festival.
“I have yet to see a kid not have fun with hands-on science,” Heisler says. “Natural-born engineers are everywhere. Even if they don’t think they like science, if it’s boring or icky, they’ll still have a great time. Everything from food to sports to computers. It has universal appeal.”
Heisler says many of the science presentations are made by current UW undergaduate and graduate students — a very diverse population.
“(Festival attendees) will see people of all shapes, sizes, colors and flavors who are budding scientists as well as full-blown professional sciences,” Heisler says. “You will see people who look like yourself who love what they do.”
Eric Wilcots, associate dean for natural and mathematical sciences in the UW–Madison College of Letters & Science and a member of the science festival steering committee, says the challenge of any science festival is to present something to folks who don’t think they’re interested in science.
“Science is absolutely everywhere and is vitally important to our lives,” says Wilcots. “We don’t recognize it in many ways, but we are all inherently curious about something. You have to capture someone’s natural curiosity and imagination to pull them in.”
For example, Green Bay Packer fans can learn the science of football prior to kickoff and during halftime at the UW–Madison Union South watch party. The age 21-and-over crowd can participate in a demonstration on the science of arcade-era cocktails during the “Science Arcade Night” at the Discovery Building.
“Science Arcade Night” is a new Madison-featured event showcasing the science, technology, engineering, math and, of course, the fun behind vintage arcade games, virtual reality, multi-player games and more. Keynote presenters — including “the man who saved pinball” and a designer for the Apples to Apples game — will talk about their experiences in the world of games.
Science storytelling is another entrée to festival participation and is the focus of a Saturday featured event, “Science Storytellers Jam!”
“More and more people are understanding that storytelling is a way to create public access to science, whether it’s scientists telling their stories or someone telling a story about science,” says Heisler. “Madison has strong existing story-driven groups that have exploded with popularity and are involved in creating our Saturday night featured event.”
In this event, scientists team up with Nerd Nite Madison, a monthly gathering with presentations on various topics for science nerds and non-nerds alike, to present the “Science Storytellers Jam!” The stories will intertwine science with more personal experiences to provide something educational and entertaining.
Many activities will be held in the Town Center of the Discovery Building, 330 N. Orchard St., with other events taking place elsewhere in Madison and in communities statewide.
Highlighted events include:
Big Ideas Amazing Students — State Capitol: This event provides an opportunity to interact with K-12 students from around the state as they share their projects or discoveries connected to the science of health, wellness and/or metabolism. Students will display their poster boards, exhibits and materials. Noon to 1 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 20, and Friday, Oct. 21, in the Wisconsin State Capitol Rotunda on the main floor.
Science Arcade Night: Science Arcade is a hands-on science event that connects all ages to the science, technology, engineering, math — and the fun — behind games. The evening will showcase vintage arcade games, virtual reality with the Living Environments Laboratory’s Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, augmented reality, DIY cardboard games, multi-player games, place-based games, board games and more. 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, Oct. 21, in the Discovery Building.
Big Ideas for Busy People: Back for a third year at the Wisconsin Science Festival, Big Ideas for Busy People features five of the UW’s best and brightest, covering topics from motion tracking to Shakespeare’s genome to gravitational waves. Each speaker gives a five-minute talk followed by five minutes of Q & A. A ringing gong calls out anyone who goes over the allotted time.
This year’s speakers are Carla Pugh, Department of Surgery, UW–Madison; Joshua Coon, Department of Chemistry, UW–Madison; Joshua Calhoun, Department of English, UW–Madison; Patrick Brady, Department of Physics, UW-Milwaukee; Melissa Skala, Department of Biomedical Engineering, UW–Madison and the Morgridge Institute for Research. 7 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 22, in the Discovery Building.
Science Storyteller’s Jam!: You’re invited to a special evening of science storytelling supported by Nerd Nite and Jen Rubin, a many-time Moth storytelling champion. The stories will intertwine science with more personal experiences and will definitely prove to be both educational and entertaining. At this laid-back event, the audience is encouraged to ask questions or submit ideas that will affect the content of the stories. 8:30 to 10:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 22, in the Discovery Building.
Check the Wisconsin Science Festival website for more detailed information about the full festival schedule for Madison and statewide events. Entry to most festival events will be free, though some activities may require nominal fees for materials. Some community partner sites may charge their usual admission fees.